Saudi Arabia Collects $107 Billion as Prince Ends Crackdown
(Bloomberg) -- Saudi authorities said they’ve recovered about $107 billion from people implicated in what the government has described as a crackdown on graft that has rattled the kingdom’s business elite and weighed on economic growth.
An anti-corruption commission headed by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said the funds received from 87 individuals came in cash, real estate, companies and securities. It wasn’t clear whether the amount was collected in full. Prince Mohammed said in October the state has received about $35 billion, while the rest would take about two years. Officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The commission referred more than 60 people to prosecution, according to a royal court statement carried by state media late on Wednesday.
The world’s biggest oil exporter is trying to put the controversial purge behind it in a bid to win back investor confidence after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in October sparked a global outcry. The purge, which started in November 2017, has prompted a growing number of rich Saudis to try to move money out of the kingdom or draw up plans to leave, Bloomberg News reported in November.
“I think the intention is to signal that the purge is over and the private sector can go back to business as usual,” said Steffen Hertog, a Gulf specialist at the London School of Economics.
“My impression is that the memory of the crackdown still lingers in the local business class, but the statement will at least give them some confidence that no major waves of arrests are around the corner, even if the information provided in the statement is fairly limited,” he said.
Officials have said the arrests were necessary to level the playing field among investors and curb rampant corruption.
Some of Prince Mohammed’s supporters also say a short-term decline in investment is an acceptable price to pay for a fundamental overhaul that will help create a more transparent business community. But allegations of torture -- denied by the government -- and the lack of transparency over settlements made the operation look more like a shakedown.
The list of royals and businessmen who were jailed included Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was released after signing a “confirmed understanding,” and Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi, who was released on Jan. 27.
The commission said on Wednesday that 56 people who were referred to prosecution had “other criminal cases against them.” Eight other people “refused to settle despite the existence of evidence against them, and they were referred to the public prosecutor.”
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